Ravens snap losing streak, drown Dolphins

MIAMI -- Terrell Suggs glanced upward at the JumboTron, watching his journey toward the end zone in real time even though it felt like slow motion to the Baltimore Ravens' outside linebacker after jumping in front of an errant Chad Pennington swing pass.

Although the Miami Dolphins were gaining on him during his 44-yard interception return, Suggs eluded their grasp to remain untouched in notching his first NFL touchdown. The game-changing play altered the momentum of the contest permanently in the second quarter, punctuating the Ravens' 27-13 victory Sunday at Dolphin Stadium that snaps a three-game losing streak.

"It's sad to say I almost got caught again," said Suggs, who had cornerback Frank Walker running interference for him. "I was looking at the JumboTron and I'm not Ed Reed, so I don't know that feeling. It looked like that first 10 or 15 yards took forever.

"I heard they almost got me. I got in there, and I think it changed the outcome of the game."

After crashing into Pennington on a safety blitz that nearly sacked the quarterback, Jim Leonhard laid on the ground and listened.

"All I heard was the crowd, because I couldn't see what was happening," Leonhard said. "That's how I knew something good had happened. I was surprised he threw it."

This marks the first road win in a year for the Ravens, halting a seven-game losing streak away from M&T Bank Stadium that dates back to a 9-7 squeaker over the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 7, 2007.

It's also the Ravens' first win in five trips to Miami, and may prove to be a pivotal outcome one year removed from a franchise-record nine-game losing streak.

"It was very important, it was going to make or break our season," Suggs said. "When you lose three or four games in a row, players are only human and they stop believing. We've got guys believing. We had to get a win."

Besides Suggs' touchdown giving Baltimore an early 10-3 advantage, the Ravens' offense contributed four scoring drives of 42, 67, 67 and 68 yards. Each time-consuming drive lasted at least nine plays.

Rookie quarterback Joe Flacco threw his second touchdown pass of the season and didn't commit a turnover.

Using the no-huddle offense, Flacco completed 17 of 23 passes for 232 yards for a career-high 120.2 quarterback rating.

During the end of the first half, Flacco engineered an eight-play drive he capped with a strike to wide receiver Derrick Mason on an out pattern for an 11-yard touchdown pass.

It was one play after Flacco nearly threw an interception at the goal line as the football bounced off Dolphins cornerback Will Allen's stone hands.

Mason ran underneath on the score, and Flacco hit him in stride once wide receiver Demetrius Williams created a seam by running off the deeper coverage.

"Derrick does a great job of planting his foot," Flacco said. "We had the right look."

It's Mason's first touchdown of the season and the first touchdown by a Baltimore wide receiver since a late-season game against the Seattle Seahawks last year.

"Joe put it on the money," Mason said. "It was a relief. It came at the right time because we needed it."

And it was Flacco's best game in weeks as he rebounded from throwing three interceptions in a 31-3 debacle against the Indianapolis Colts a week ago.

"There's a little bit of a roller-coaster ride to an NFL season with a rookie quarterback," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "There's going to be dips, and he's going to bounce back."

Meanwhile, running back Willis McGahee gained 105 rushing yards on 19 carries and scored a five-yard insurance touchdown with 6:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.

McGahee redeemed himself after losing a fumble in the open field at the Dolphins' 11-yard line after being hit from behind by safety Yeremiah Bell following a 35-yard screen play.

"That fumble, that was the worst highlight of my career," McGahee said. "It was a good screen, a good run and it wasn't a good finish, like it was all meant for nothing. I had to go out there and make up for it."

It was McGahee's first 100-yard game since losing in overtime here last year, and his top game of the season with 152 yards of total offense. A former University of Miami star, McGahee has averaged 94.4 rushing yards at Dolphin Stadium for his career.

"It's always a good feeling when you play in your hometown," McGahee said. "I've been playing every year since I've been in the league. It tends to get a little old, but you still have a little fire in you."

After the Ravens' defense forced a punt, Baltimore took off on a 68-yard drive that included a key 23-yard Flacco completion to Mason.

"It was a team win," Suggs said. "We bailed out the offense and they bailed us out. That's how a team is supposed to operate."

Plus, kicker Matt Stover connected on a season-high 47-yard field goal and a 28-yarder after struggling earlier this season. Stover missed a 44-yard potential game-winner in overtime during the Ravens' loss last year at Miami as Baltimore became the only team to lose last year to the 1-15 Dolphins.

The NFL's top-ranked defense recovered from being scorched for three touchdown passes against the Colts' Peyton Manning last week.

Dolphins star running back Ronnie Brown was held to just 27 rushing yards on 13 carries as Ricky Williams was limited to 16 yards on four carries. Miami (2-4) remains in last place in the AFC East.

The Ravens surrendered just 71 rushing yards and haven't allowed an opposing runner to gain 100 yards in 25 games, the longest streak in the NFL.

"It's simple: We don't believe in 100-yard runners," said middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who had 10 tackles. "That's what we're all about."

The Dolphins' trendy Wildcat offense was shut down as the Ravens solved the gadgetry that confounded the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers.

"They're one of the top defenses in the league, and it showed," Brown said. "They had an answer for a lot of things we were doing."

The win may have finally exorcised the demons from last season's embarrassing loss to the woeful Dolphins, a setback that likely sealed former coach Brian Billick being fired by team owner Steve Bisciotti.

"Definitely, but we were kind of over that," Suggs said. "We've had enough drama this year leading up to this game."

BALTIMORE RAVENS' REPORT CARD

Quarterback: B

Joe Flacco didn't play like a rookie, managing the game adeptly and completing 17 of 23 passes for 232 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a career-high 120.2 passer rating. His 11-yard strike to Derrick Mason gave the Ravens a 17-6 advantage. He fumbled once and was nearly intercepted near the Dolphins' end zone, but cornerback Will Allen cooperated with a critical drop.

Running back: B-plus

Willis McGahee rushed for a season-high 105 yards on 19 carries, scoring a final insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter. Although he fumbled at the end of a 35-yard reception, he made up for that miscue with his touchdown run. Rookie second-round pick Ray Rice contributed in the passing game with a 40-yard effort where he hurdled a defender on a swing pass.

Receivers: B-minus

Derrick Mason caught six passes for 87 yards, including his first touchdown catch of the season on a crisp sideline out pattern. He didn't get a ton of help from his colleagues as Mark Clayton was the only other receiver to catch a pass and tight end Todd Heap was limited to three receptions for 29 yards. Demetrius Williams was flagged for offensive pass interference.

Offensive line: B

Although Joe Flacco was sacked three times, at least one and perhaps two were coverage sacks. They did a solid job of buying him enough time and created some big holes for Willis McGahee to amble through.

Defensive line: B

The Ravens tamed the Wildcat formation and the Dolphins' two-headed running game, limiting Ronnie Brown to 27 yards on 13 carries and Ricky Williams to 16 yards on four carries. In particular, massive defensive tackle Haloti Ngata made a physical difference at the line of scrimmage.

Linebackers: B-plus

Terrell Suggs put an exclamation point on the Ravens' victory with a 44-yard interception return for his first NFL touchdown, also notching a sack and seven tackles. Ray Lewis recorded a team-high 10 tackles. The linebackers were occasionally late in reacting to patterns.

Secondary: C

With starter Chris McAlister sidelined for most of the game due to a knee injury, according to coach John Harbaugh, and Samari Rolle still out following neck surgery, reserves Fabian Washington, Frank Walker and Corey Ivy did a decent job of keeping Chad Pennington from breaking the game open. However, they did get gashed for several intermediate gains and gave up 295 passing yards and a touchdown.

Special teams: C-plus

Punter Sam Koch booted three punts for a 59.0 average, including a 67-yarder. Matt Stover connected on field goals from 47 and 28 yards with the 47-yarder marking a season-high. While the kicking team gave up a 31-yard kickoff return to Ted Ginn, Ray Rice averaged 25.3 yards on kickoff returns with Yamon Figurs out with a knee contusion. Stover's kickoffs were consistently short.


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